Until someone invents smell-o-vision that will work with your computer, you’ll have to believe me when I tell you that the pot holders in the pot of water you see in the photo above smelled bad. Even though they had been washed previously, years of use left them imbedded with odors and stains and I’ve been thinking about replacing them.

I got the idea to put them in that pot you see from Marisa McClellan, the voice behind the Food in Jars blog and books. Earlier this week, she posted a photo on social media of her cloth napkins in a pot of boiling water saying she was giving them their yearly deep cleaning to get out all the grease.

I wondered if the method would work with pot holders. My pot holders are old. I've had one of them for more than 20 years. Since I’m always on the lookout to find ways to get use out of things for as long as possible before having to replace them, I wanted to try this simple method on the potholders.

  1. Fill a large pot with water.
  2. Add pot holders.
  3. Add a few drops of dish detergent.
  4. Bring to a boil and continue to boil for 30 minutes.
  5. Launder and dry as normal.

water left after washing dirty potholders

My first clue that I was having success was the look of the water after the pot holders had boiled for 30 minutes. It was murky and greasy. Some of it was probably from the dyes from the pot holders leaching into the water, even though they’ve been washed many, many times.

Some of it was dirt and grease, though. In fact, there was some sandy dirt on the bottom of the pot that you can’t see in the photo, right, because the water is so murky. Remember, these pot holders had just been washed in the washing machine.

After boiling the pot holders, I put them in the washing machine for the quick, 20-minute cycle and then dried them in my clothes dryer. I normally would hang them on the line outside to freshen them up even more. Knowing that not everyone who reads this has access to line drying, I put them in the dryer.

Four cleaner, much better smelling pot holders came out of the dryer.

clean potholders

I am pleased with the results. While I wouldn’t say they smell brand new, they no longer smell old and greasy. Considering this was the first time they went through this deep clean after years, decades even, of use, the improvement is impressive. I have hope that if I do this every two months or so, they’ll improve even more.

I’m off to giving my cloth napkins a deep cleanse.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.